Part 1 Madigas for themselves

Madiga Home
The Dandora Campaign
Part 1 Notes
Roots 1
Roots 2
Performing arts 1
Performing arts 2
Performing arts 3
The Yellamma Cult
Part 2 Notes
Village order
Inter-caste rivalry
Anti-caste movements
Conflict and atrocities
Chapter 2

Literature: Madigas writing

This chapter is at an early stage of construction.

In the meantime, please explore Dr Darla Venkateswara Rao's Madiga Kavulu blog (click 'Madiga poets' below). He is himself a poet and a university lecturer, writing mostly in Telugu.

Madiga poets


Yendluri Sudhakar 2002.
Nalladraksha pandiri / Darky:
A Bilingual Anthology of Poems 1985-2002. 
Secunderabad: JJ Publications.
©  Hemalatha 2002

Yendluri Sudhakar is a well known and widely respected Telugu poet and short-story writer. His poetry is more accessible in English than most, in this book especially
. It displays his Telugu originals on one side of each opening, the translations, by several different translators, on the other. There are also two informative appreciations of his work.

Four of the translations are included here: ‘An Autobiography’, ‘A New Dream’, ‘Dakkali Girl’ and ‘Mysamma’s Death’. They are an inevitably inadequate introduction to his large and exceptionally varied range. 'MO', the translator of these four, is the main translator for this volume.

For the impressive title poem, ‘Neelika / Darky’ and the many others, please enjoy them on the pages of the book itself.

Two paragraphs (p.185/6) from Tallavajjala Patanjali Sastry's appreciation make an appropriate introduction:


‘Look at what he has done. He is one of those Pochampalli weavers - most evocative motifs, elaborate artistry and if there is a grammar to weaving (and not technique) Sudhakar is an exquisite weaver. His seemingly straight style has a special charm and his cunning employment of metaphors, though not unfamiliar, sound fresh and untouched. Sudhakar does not care for brevity. Any number of his poems - on his widowed mother, Shakeela, his own diabetes, Godavari et al pitchforked him to the front of leading Telugu poets. But as I have been saying he has a niche as a different dalit poet. In saying this I also refer to his prose work though technically I am out of bounds.’

‘Street sweepers are a familiar sight in India. So when Mysammas die, earth doesn't exactly tremble. Look at his opening lines describing her. Clad in a blue saree with a blazing red dot on her forehead, Mysamma appears accompanying the dawn. The allusion is to the cult goddess Mysamma who presided over water and land. Like a Goddess cursed she walked the earth and perished. The legend of Mysamma in different forms appears in texts. He remembered her as a boy pedalling down the road where she worked. The boy in fact was trying to rescue her (on her powerful presence) from the mists of legends. It is a racial memory packed in four separate sentences. The give-away is in the name. Such cult allusions are strewn all over his poetry.’


                                    An Autobiography

My autobiography was released in the palace of wonders.

Felicitations on the open stage.

As garlands fall on my neck

Wounds of yester years startle.

When flowers are showered on my head

Deep inside thorny whips flail.

As felicitation addresses are read out

Inside my intestines knives of humiliation pierce.

As incantations ring behind me

In my ears are spread the flaming cries of smoking lead.

When they sat me on the dais

I recollect the face of my grand father

Made to stand at the outskirts of the village.

When glasses full with water are put before me

Scenes of kneeling and drinking water

Touch me as hot deserts.

As a shawl is spread around my shoulders

The vague figure of my blouseless

Grand mother cuts my heart.

As silk clothes are presented to me

The coarse rags of my grand father

Hang on the clothesline of my eyes.

When I am invited to festival feasts

Nights of cast away food

In the cattle sheds come to memory.

As time prostrates at my feet

Clay feet of my shoeless great grand fathers

Move in my mind.

If my childhood teachers are seen on any road

My thumb hides itself in the fist

As a hen encountered by a hawk.

When parrot like, admirers of Rama

Appreciate my poetry in exclamations

The poetry of my race sunk in the soil

Accosts me cruelly.

When colourful cross roads waiting

Invite me with festoons

Golden swans are all too eager to

Take just five steps with me instead of the seven.

The dust of my forefathers' bodies

Breathes anew from their undergrounds.

When women unseen by the sun

Compete in their choice of marriage for me -

Heads struck, limbs cut flare up in me still.

When temples and the new gods

Wait patiently to pay tributes,

Temple bells laugh ironically in semi-darkness.

I have risen as a fifth sun.

Tearing the dark clouds of the four walls.

My rays of blood today

Reflect on the face of the moon.

In the light of the new sun

Time will read my autobiography

As a text book


- Translated by ‘MO’


A New Dream

You -

Skinning the five elements,

Once nailing the sky

Once nailing the under world

Soaking skin on the

Seven seas.

For you

The sun and the moon should

Become a pair of shoes !

Head lowered, may be with

Hunger or is it insult -

Making shoes with your own skin,

Grand Father !
            I dream of this world 
            Becoming a toe strap
            Kissing your greater toe


- Translated by ‘MO’

[pp 47-51]

Dakkali Girl

Believe it or not!

Really that young Dakkali girl

Weaving a date mat

Is a Queen!

As her mother follows her like Renuka Devi,

And father with trap ropes on his shoulder,

Singing Jambu Purana, playing on the solo string,

A bunch of hounds around him -

The earth, a spinning nomadic top

Around their stomachs.

That untouchable girl

Used to move in my tender heart like a puppet.

As the girl entered our ghetto

Riding a donkey

It looked as if Jesus entered Jerusalem.

As winged white ants hovered over her like

Three crore deities

She came tugging up a rainbow to the donkey's tail.

In the whiteness of her calf eyes

Sticky moon shone like red meat.

            Her smile with tartar of teeth

Was beyond all measures of beauty.

For that lass's non-Brahmin slang

Even Saraswati can't write the music key.

In childhood I used to drink

Donkey milk as well as mother's milk.

I saw my mother in the donkey the lass used to bring along.

I felt as though a season of milk set foot in my stomach.

Donkey Milk! Donkey Milk!! At her call

The face of our street shone like Arundhati star

Becoming braying donkeys, we gathered round.

With one look at us -

There floated the bliss of a mother breast - feeding

In the maternal eyes of that donkey.

The lass looked like a Buddhist beggar girl

Before our huts for a mouthful of rice or gruel

Of a cupful of hands.

Even the four faced God looking at her

Forehead couldn't tell

Whether her guts are crying or her lips smiling.

If only rice had eyes

Every dry particle would have cried.

The girl wriggled between

Untouchability and hunger

Like a fish in a dried up tank.

We had at least a hut for our heads
Under the roof of the sky.

The girl wandered like a nomad.

In a nation where the foul urine of cows

Becomes pious libation

The untouchable girl had faith only in the donkey.

I always think of that girl.

I talk even in sleep, giving her a morsel

Taking it out from my own stomach.

I dream of her being a step higher than mine.

That Dakkali girl is not seen any more,

Nor my childhood donkey mother!

Both move round inside me.

She stands at the junction of reservations

Demanding her share.

I hear the horn of a buffalo blowing inside me

I see soft grains of rice as knives sharpening within me

Waging a new war against my own ‘higher than thou.’

        (6. 9.1998)

- Translated by ‘MO’

Dakkali      : Those born of Jambavant's flank. Sub caste

of Madiga, a fifth caste. Nomads.

Jambu Pura : A very ancient myth, tribal in character.
                Four-faced God : Lord Brahma.

[pp 129-31]
                Mysamma's Death
Our alley in the morning
Used to shine like a silk lalchie pressed.
She used to sweep the lanes
With love as of bathing children.

Her coarse blue saree

An apron-like cloth with checks across

A broom like the waist of a python

A dot on the forehead like a red signal in darkness,

Our Mysamma

Looked like a Municipality Mother.

Menstrual cloths, and dirty linen

All collected

And carried off in a push cart

She looked like Mother Ganges

Washing away all pollution.

Waking up with the morning star

I still remember the strange sound of sweeping.

I who wasn't even as tall as

Her broom stick can never forget our Mysamma.

Mysamma ! Mysamma !

I see a mother in you, Mysamma

For cleaning my own dirt just for love

Though not related by blood.

Coming as yourself a gift,

Asking for a few coins to buy a cup of tea,

At Christmas or the morning after Diwali night -

Is a never fading memory.

'Don't throw rubbish at door steps,' Mysamma,

Whoever listened to your lessons of cleanliness?

Like the cine actor's black money

Dirt grew by the day, foul smell spread

Through the rotten dustbin.

I thought you had fever and so didn't come.

Never thought you would go away leaving no trace

Letting loads of dust remain in our unchanging lives.

Mysamma ! Mysamma!!

As I ride my bicycle

Through the lane of the grave yard

Your memory touches me like a fragrance.

The lane that looked like a washed dhoti

Now hangs its head with the crown of pollution.

Our black dog wails at nights

Rolling in the dust heap -

Maybe remembering you.


(An elegy to our Municipal Sweeper)

- Translated by ‘MO’

Nalla Regati Sallu (Black Soil Furrow)
Short stories of Madiga Sub-castes Women Eds Joopaka Subhadra & Gogu Shyamala

Please continue to:-

Site last updated 20.4.2008